Isabela (Ilokano: Probinsya ti Isabela), (Tagalog: Lalawigan ng Isabela), is province of the Philippines and the second largest province in the country next to Palawan. It is located in the Cagayan Valley Region in Luzon. Its capital is Ilagan City and borders, clockwise from the south, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Cagayan. This primarily agricultural province is the rice and corn granary of Luzon due to its plain and rolling terrain. In 2012, the province was declared as country’s top producer in corn with 1,209,524 production.[1]

It is the Top 10 richest province in the Philippines last 2011, being the only province of Northern Luzon to be included in the list. The province has four trade centers in the cities of Ilagan, Cauayan, Santiago and the municipality of Roxas.


Prior to 1856, there were only two provinces in the Cagayan Valley Region: Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The Province of Cagayan at that time consisted of all towns from Tumauini to the north in Aparri and all other towns from Ilagan City, Roxas southward to Aritao comprised the Province of old Nueva Vizcaya. In order to facilitate the work of the Catholic missionaries in the evangelization in the Cagayan Valley, a royal decree was issued on May 1, 1856 that created the Province of Isabela consisting of the towns of Gamu, Old Angadanan (now Alicia), Bindang (now Roxas) and Camarag (now Echague), Carig (now Santiago City) and Palanan, all detached from Nueva Vizcaya; while Cabagan and Tumauini were taken from the Cagayan province. The province was put under the jurisdiction of a governor with the capital seat at Ilagan City, where it remains at the present. It was initially called Isabela de Luzon to differentiate from other places in the Philippines bearing the name of Isabela. The new province was named in honor of Queen Isabela II of Spain.[2]

Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it is in Palanan that the final pages of the Philippines Revolution was written when the American forces led by Gen. Frederick Funston finally captured Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in the area on March 23, 1901. Isabela was reorganized as a province under the American regime through Act No. 210, passed August 24, 1901.[3] Its first provincial governor was Rafael Maramag, a former Municipal President (then a term for Municipal Mayor) of the capital town Ilagan City. Rafael Maramag was also the first Municipal President of Ilagan City and was succeeded by his brother Gabriel. Isabela was ruled by the Dy family for 34 years, from 1969 to 2004. The dynasty started with the patriarch of the family, Faustino Dy, Sr. who served as the Cauayan Mayor from 1965–1969 and as a Governor of Isabela for 22 years (1969–1992). He was replaced by his son, Benjamin G. Dy in the gubernatorial seat from 1992 to 2001. Another Dy took the gubernatorial seat in 2001 when Faustino Dy Jr. won the 2001 elections after having served first as a Representative of the 2nd district of the province from 1992 to 2001. It was only in the 2004 elections that the Dys’ ruling over the gubernatorial seat was taken away from the family when Grace Padaca won.

The Americans built schools and other buildings and instituted changes in the overall political system. The province’s economy, however, remained particularly agricultural with rice replacing corn and tobacco as the dominant crop. World War II stagnated the province’s economic growth but it recovered dramatically after the war. In 1942, the Japanese Imperial forces occupied Isabela. In 1945, liberation of Isabela commenced with the arrival of the Philippine Commonwealth troops under the Philppine Army, Constabulary and USAFIP-NL units and recognized guerrillas attacked by the Japanese Imperial forces in World War II. Isabela today is the premier province of the north, one of the most progressive in the country and Cauayan,the agro industrial center and the commercial center of region 2 is a component city while Santiago, the Commercial Center of Region 02, was declared an independent city on July 7, 1994.

A new wave of immigration began in the late 19th and 20th centuries with the arrival of the Ilocanos who came in large numbers. They now constitute the largest group in the province. Other ethnic groups followed and Isabela became the “melting pot of the north”.[2]

In 1995, Republic Act Number 7891 was passed legislating that Isabela be divided into two new provinces: Isabela del Norte and Isabela del Sur.[4][5] A referendum was held on the same year with a strong majority voting not to separate the province.[6]

In 2012, the capital town of Ilagan officially became a city winning 96% of the votes in the plebiscite conducted in August 11, 2012.[7][8] The night after the voting, COMELEC Commissioner Armando Velasco declared Ilagan as the new component city of the province.[9]

People and culture

According to the latest Philippine Census, Isabela is the most populated province among the five provinces in Cagayan Valley (Region II). It has a population of 1,401,495 people and comprising 45.93 percent of the 3 million people in the region. At the national level, the province contributed 1.58 percent to the total population of 88.57 million. There are 254,928 households in the province.

For all ages, the sex ratio in Isabela was about 105 with 660,627 males and 626,948 females in the 2000 Census of Population and Housing (Census 2000). There are more males than females below 50 years old.

Ilocanos are the most prominent group in Isabela. Of the total household population, 68.71 percent classified themselves as Ilocanos. The next two prominent groups(ethnic) are Ibanag (14.05 percent) and Tagalog (10.02 percent). The remaining 7.22 percent are either Gaddang, Paranan, Yogad, or are from other ethnic groups.

Major languages in Isabela are Ilocano followed by Ibanag, Yogad, Gaddang. People especially in the capital and commercial centers speak and understand English and Tagalog/Pilipino.


A farmland in the municipality of Quezon

Isabela comprises an aggregate land area of 10,665 square kilometers, representing almost 40 percent of the regional territory. It is the largest province in the island of Luzon and the second largest province in the Philippines in terms of land area. It is located on the right-most part of the Northern Luzon facing the Pacific Ocean and comprising parts of the Sierra Madre. Isabela is one of the provinces which is often hit by typhoons due to its location.


The province is divided into three physiographic areas. The eastern area, straddled by the Sierra Madre mountain range, is rugged and thickly forested. A substantial portion is uncharted. These unexplored hinterlands are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, while others are government reservations. The western area is a sprawling fertile valley hemmed by the Central Cordillera. It is criss-crossed by the mighty Cagayan River, Siffu river, and Magat River. Its mountains rise to a peak of about 8,000 feet, and are home to one of the world’s largest remaining low-altitude rainforests, with numerous unknown endemic species of flora and fauna and exceptional biological diversity. The area is popularly known as the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Isabela has 600,000 hectares of Cagayan Valley’s 900,000 hectares of forest cover.[10][11]

Isabela is subdivided into 34 municipalities and three (3) cities.

Tourism is relatively a new industry being developed in the province. Support services and accommodation facilities are likewise being developed. Tourism focuses mainly in the two cities Santiago City and Cauayan City and its surrounding area with the Presence of Magat Dam tourism complex and places of interest. Tourism is also being developed in the coastal areas of Palanan where white sand beaches can be found.

The province of Isabela is the richest in Cagayan Valley. It is also the Top 10 Richest Province in the Philippines last 2011, being the only province of Northern Luzon to be included in the list.[14]


Agriculture is the major industry of the people of Isabela. Farming is highly mechanized as most of the agricultural lands are irrigated. With the presence of the Isabela State University, joint ventures and other foreign assisted projects and the Magat Dam contribute to the high productivity in agriculture. It is also the hub of trade and commerce and other economic activities due to its central location in the region. The wood industry used to be a top earner for the province but due to the logging ban imposed in the Cagayan Valley Region, activities in this industry considerably declined. However, furniture making using narra[disambiguation needed ] and other indigenous forest materials continue to exist.

Isabela is one of the most progressive provinces of the Philippines having been adjudged as the most outstanding province on food security in the Gawad Sapat Ani Awards 2000. For corn production, Isabela ranks first among the top ten corn producing provinces for cy 2004, contributing 15.70% to national production. For rice production, Isabela contributes to around 13.05% of the country’s output. The unprecedented increase in palay production of Isabela made the province the “Hybrid Rice Champion” of the Philippines. Isabela has already earned the distinction of being a major food supplier to the rest of the country particularly in rice and corn.


Forestland covers 54.37% or 579,819 hectares of Isabela’s total land area of which 62% is protection forest and 38% is production forest. The best quality of timber resources in the Philippines is found in Isabela’s forest. Isabela’s vast forest resources are now being ecologically manage to effect sustainable forest- based resource not only for the wood working industry but to secure a balanced ecosystem.


Isabela’s coast in Divilacan

Potential investments are in fisheries and tourism. Isabela has a fertile fishing ground on the Pacific Coast. The reservoir of the Magat Dam is utilized for fish cage operations for tilapia production for domestic markets. Tourism is relatively a new industry being developed in the province. Support services and accommodation facilities are likewise being developed.

Airports and Sea ports

There are three airports in the province. The Cauayan Airport is the primary airport in the province serving a trip to Manila and Tuguegarao. The other two are the Palanan Airport in Palanan and Maconacon Airport in Maconacon. The province has two minor seaports, the Divilacan Port and Palanan Port in the coastal towns of Divilacan and Palanan. The trade going to the ports come primarily from Major seaports in Cagayan such as Port of Aparri in Aparri, Cagayan, and Port of San Vicente and Port Irene, both from Santa Ana, Cagayan.

Mineral and Energy

Also found in the province are large deposits of copper, gold, zinc & chromite, manganese and nickel. It has extensive deposits of non- metallic minerals such as limestone, clay, marbles, guano, sand & gravel, and boulders. Indigenous energy sources such as natural gas and hydroelectric capabilities have been found to be abundant in the valley. Many of its mineral reserves have yet to be fully tapped.

Tourists Attractions

  • Sierra Madre Natural Forest Park (Eastern Coast of Isabela)
  • Maconacon Falls (Maconacon, Isabela)
  • Hanging Bridge (Maconacon, Isabela)
  • White Sand Beaches (Dinapigue, Palanan, Divilacan) – Typical of coastal areas along the Sierra Madre Mountains of Cagayan Valley.
  • Dibulo Falls (Dinapigue, Isabela)
  • Dinapigue Sea Wall (Dinapigue, Isabela)
  • Bonsai Park (Dinapigue, Isabela)
  • Waterworld Grand Resort (Ramon, Isabela)
  • Magat High Rise Dam (Ramon, Isabela) – Asia’s biggest dam project at the time of its construction. It serves the primary function of power generation and irrigation. Its reservoir area of 4,450 hectares has a great potential for water-based recreation like fishing, boating and water skiing, among others.
  • Camp Vizcarra (Ramon, Isabela)
  • Pinzal Falls (Ilagan City)
  • Abuan River (Ilagan City)
  • Ilagan Sanctuary (Ilagan City)
  • Sta. Victoria Caves (Ilagan City)
  • Worlds Largest Butaka (Ilagan City) – It is 11 feet 4 inches high, 20 feet 8 inches long, and 9 feet 7 inches wide. It weighs 2,368 kilos and was constructed by 25 workers in 29 days.
  • Desert Island (Divilacan, Isabela)
  • Water Impounding Dam (Roxas, Isabela)
  • Borubor Falls (Roxas, Isabela)
  • Honeymoon Island (Divilacan, Isabela)
  • La Salette Shrine (Santiago City) – located in Balintocatoc Hills, contains life-sized statues of religious icons.
  • Obelisk (Jones, Isabela)
  • Dimanek Falls (San Mariano, Isabela) – Located near boundary ridge between Palanan and San Mariano, Isabela.
  • Crocodile Watching (Crocodylus Mindorensis) – at San Mariano at night.
  • Aguinaldo Shrine (Palanan, Isabela) – Historic Capture and Heroism of General Emilio Aguinaldo.
  • Dilaknadanum (Palanan, Isabela) – is the home Agta people, another minorities on the coast of Isabela. Such a beautiful place, with forest, beaches, rivers and small farmsteads uprivers.
  • Dicotcotan Beach (Palanan, Isabela)
  • Sta. Maria Triangular Park (Sta. Maria, Isabela)
  • Mororan (Tumauini)
  • Camp Samal-“haven of scouts” (Tumauini)
  • Sinavulluan Caves (Tumauini)

  • SAINT ROSE OF LIMA CHURCH in Gamu is famous for its Spanish architectural design. Built in 1726 during the Spanish time, the church façade was made of layered bricks and stones dating back during the 17th century and considered a pilgrimage church because of its antiquity. The feast of their patron, Saint Rose of Lima is celebrated every 23rd of August.
  • SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE VISITATION OF GUIBANG in Gamu is located along the national highway frequented by travelers passing the Maharlika Highway. It is now as famous as the Guibang Basilica Minore because it also comes alive on July of every year when religious pilgrims from all walks of life come to offer prayers of good health, peace and abundance, among many other intentions. The image of the Our Lady of the Visitation was canonically crowned by the Most Rev. Carmine Pocco, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines on May 26, 1973 at the St. Ferdinand Cathedral in Gamu,Isabela. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at its 52nd Annual Bishop’s Meeting held in Tagaytay City on January 24-26, 1986 have approved the petition of His Excellency, Most Rev. Miguel Purugganan, Bishop of Ilagan for the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang to be called a National Shrine.
  • Parish of St. Mathias (Tumauini, Isabela) – Work on the church started in 1783. It has been faithfully restored after being damaged during World War II and is acknowledged as the most artistic brick structure in the Philippines. The cylindrical bell tower is the only one of its kind in the country.
  • Our Lady of the Pillar Church (Cauayan City)
  • SAN PABLO CHURCH is the oldest town of Isabela was founded by Padre de Sto. Tomas on Nov. 30, 1646, or about 210 years before Isabela was made a province and its bell tower with six levels including the circular apex is made of adobe and is said to be the oldest in Isabela and the tallest in Cagayan Valley.
  • Our Lady of Atocha (Alicia, Isabela)- The church and convent as seen today in the town of Alicia, beautiful and solid, was built by Fr. Tomas Calderon, OP and inaugurated in 1849, with Fr. Francisco Gainza, OP, then vicar of Carig (now Santiago City). Famous for their antique Spanish architectural designs, these churches are found along the national highway and are accessible by land transport.
  • St. James Parish Church (Santiago City)


  • Bambanti Festival (Isabela Day)
  • Pattaraday Festival – Pattaraday which means unity is an Ybanag word, it is celebrated on the occasion of the founding anniversary of Santiago. It celebrates the unity of the ethno-linguistic groups that have merged in the city to make it the melting pot of culture of Region 02 and contributed to the city’s progress and development-unity in action. Highlighted with the presentation of the Comedia – a moro-moro dance made famous by the Spaniards to stress the power of Christian Religion over the Moorish non-believers; other activities include beauty pageant, grand batalla presentations and a grand street dancing parade and exhibition with performers from other cities, provinces and regions.
  • Pagay Festival (Alicia)
  • Kankanen Festival (Cabatuan)
  • Binnadangan Festival (Roxas)
  • Nateng Festival (Mallig)
  • Gakit Festival (Angadanan)
  • Nuang Festival (San Agustin) – Carabao Race
  • Gawagaway-yan Festival (Cauayan City)
  • Mangi Festival (Tumauini)
  • Baka Festival (San Pablo)
  • Mammangi Festival, Binallay Festival (Ilagan City)

Notable residents

  • Gilbert Teodoro – former secretary of the national defense of the republic of the Philippines
  • Jejomar Binay – Vice President of the Philippines
  • Ruthlane Uy Asmundson – Mayor of Davis, California, USA
  • Mark Clemence Telan – PBA Player
  • Rogemar Menor – PBA Player
  • General Mateo Noriel Luga
  • Heherson Alvarez – Senator
  • Freddie Aguilar – Singer/ composer
  • Ricky Calimag – (Echague, Isabela) – PBA player
  • Grace Padaca – former Governor of Isabela; now a Commissoner of Commisson on Elections
  • Jason Salcedo – Actor / Musician (Lead character as Jubal in Magic Temple and many other movies like Magic Kingdom, Gangland, Puson ng Pasko and others)